Hair loss is easily the most common condition affecting men globally. While it usually comes down to 1 or 2 factors, the causes are still largely misunderstood by the general population — and there is misinformation everywhere.
Adding to that, many aren't aware that, if caught early, hair loss can be stopped in its tracks and, in most cases, even reversed.
Read as we dive into some of the less commonly-known causes of hair loss, how they can be triggered, and what treatment options there are.
The most common cause of hair loss: Your genes
That's right: you can blame your parents for some things. Male pattern baldness is the most common type of hair loss, with research suggesting that 80% of men will have experienced it by the time they're 80 .
Hereditary hair loss can start as early as your 20s, and the first signs of it aren't always obvious until it has well and truly set in. It generally gets more progressive with age, but the pace at which it develops can vary depending on your genes.
What if it's not your genes?
Well, there are many other factors that could cause hair to thin and fall, some of which people rarely even consider. These include:
Bizarrely, it's not an overly advertised fact that some hairstyles and treatments are pretty bad for your scalp, particularly hairstyles that pull at the hair and that, as a result, can lead to traction alopecia.
This is usually the hallmark of styles like very tight ponytails or cornrows. Its prevalence amongst both ballerinas and African women is markedly noticed, as well as in Sikh men, whose hair can be pulled too tightly beneath a turban, causing damage to the follicles at the root .
Treatment for this less common type of hair loss is usually non-pharmaceutical.
Other hair treatments that use hot oil, as well as the traditional ‘70s pornstar “perm” can also inflame the hair follicles to the point of permanent damage and should be approached with caution.
Stress is one of the most damaging external factors when it comes to your health, and also one of the most commonly ignored.
Many will experience some degree of hair loss in the months that follow a very stressful event, usually in the form of thinning hair (although in extreme cases, sudden hair loss can also occur) . This is usually due to a condition known as telogen effluvium, which sends hair follicles into a “resting” phase, causing an accelerated rate of hair loss.
As a result, you can lose up to 300 hair strands a day, compared to 100, which is normal to shed naturally .
Additionally, there's also a type of hair loss called alopecia areata, which is an autoimmune disease that causes patchy hair loss and can be triggered by stress of varying degrees .
Stress-related hair loss can be caused by a very broad set of factors, including:
- Chronic illness
- Eating disorders
- Severe emotional disorders
- Crash diets
- Drug abuse
- Excessive alcohol
Luckily, this can be reversed in a matter of months by removing the trigger that causes the stress in the first place.
Far less common than telogen effluvium, trichotillomania (in plain English: literally pulling out your hair) is classified as a mental disorder and also results in hair loss .
Though not prevalent, trichotillomania affects women far more than it affects men, usually shows first signs and symptoms around puberty, and is generally exacerbated by high levels of stress.
Radiation therapy to the head
This one might sound obvious (and there's a reason we haven't included chemotherapy on this list as it only causes temporary hair loss), but ongoing radiation therapy to the head can cause the hair to grow back differently once treatment has ended.
Radiation therapy is used to treat certain kinds of cancer and it uses large, acutely targeted blasts of ionising radiation to kill malignant cells. Of course, similarly to chemotherapy, it doesn't only kill “bad” cells, but can also damage good, functioning cells in the process.
Differently to chemotherapy however, which makes all of the hair in the body fall out, radiation therapy only affects the hair at the site of treatment, hence why hair loss from the scalp would only occur when radiotherapy has been used to treat a condition like a tumour in the brain.
Side effects of medication
While not hugely common, some medications can cause hair loss as a side effect. One, as we know, is chemotherapy drugs, but there are plenty of others that can have this effect to varying degrees.
Medications known to cause potential hair loss include:
- Atorvastatin and simvastatin (cholesterol-lowering drugs)
- Warfarin (an anticoagulant) 
- Captopril and lisinopril (blood pressure medications)
- Acitretin (a psoriasis treatment) 
- Amiodarone (an antiarrhythmic drug)
- Divalproex (an anticonvulsant) 
- Colchicine (a gout medication) 
- Cimetidine (an antacid)
- Ketoconazole (an anti-fungal medication).
Lastly, steroids like testosterone and progesterone have a well-recorded history of accelerating hair loss, as do common acne treatments containing isotretinoin.
Curiously, minoxidil, a common treatment for hair loss that is readily available over the counter, can also trigger hair loss in the first few weeks or even months of use . This, however, is a normal part of the scalp-healing process, and the majority of users experience thicker hair after continued use.
Perhaps a more common reason for female pattern hair loss (usually thanks to pregnancy or childbirth), hormonal changes and medical conditions can play their part in aggravating an ailing scalp — even in men.
Research has actually shown that hormonal hair loss — androgenetic alopecia — is linked to androgen hormones (hence the name), particularly one called dihydrotestosterone (or DHT), which in high levels can shrink your hair follicles and cause your hair to thin and fall.
Different hair loss causes = different treatments?
In a way, yes, different causes call for different solutions.
If you're losing hair because of a medication, your doctor may simply recommend a different one, whereas if you find that your hair falls because of your go-to hairstyle, changing it up might be enough to stop the shedding.
However, sometimes simple tweaks like these aren't quite enough on their own — but that's no reason for concern.
Nowadays, there are modern treatments that aren't just super effective, but also affordable.
Pilot's prescription hair loss treatment targets male pattern hair loss and promotes hair growth through 2 clinically-approved medications: one that blocks the enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT and another that increases blood flow around your hair follicles.
Because it is a personalised hair loss treatment, it takes into account the specific cause behind your hair loss to determine a medication dosage that works for you. And the efficacy is clear: thanks to this treatment, 83% of men will keep their hair and 66% will regrow it.
For those not ready for a prescription treatment just yet, Pilot's Hair Growth Kit combines all the best ingredients to support healthy hair growth and comes packed with Biotin Hair Gummies, Hair Growth Shampoo & Conditioner, and a Derma Roller.
Keen to read up on other treatment options and causes of hair loss? Check out Pilot's guide to hair loss here.
Photo credit: Getty Images